South Africa Trip - 2000/2001
Tree in magical post rainstorm light
We have all returned safely from
our thrilling trip to South Africa. To say we had a great time is to
understate it completely. It was awesome!
After the grueling 17-hour flight
from Atlanta, we picked up a brand new Microbus from Avis in Cape Town and
headed off on our adventure. I took some out-of-the way rural farm roads
that took us past Bredasdorp and Ouplaas to the town of Malgas where we
waited in line for the last remaining human powered ferry in the country.
It was quite a treat to watch the whole process of the trekkers latching
their chains onto the towing cable and walking the length of the ferry
effectively towing their heavy cargo across the river.
From there we got back onto the
N2 at Heidelberg and drove to Plett stopping to watch the bungee jumpers
and bridge swingers at the Gouritz Bridge. We drove past Mossel Bay,
George an the ever stunning Wilderness.
It was great to arrive in Plett
to be with my mom and dad over Christmas. Mom is a strong as ever, and the
girls really enjoyed her sense of humor, but dad is not doing so well. We
are not sure if he is fully aware of what’s happening around him, since
he never lets on. But I think he is, and I think it’s just too much
effort for him to contribute to the conversation. It’s pretty sad that
the kids didn’t get to meet dad while he was still such a dynamic and
assertive man. The constant care that mom has to provide for dad is
wearing her down and we are all hoping that Paul can find a suitable home
for Dad in East London as the Plett options are minimal.
Island Hotel from Glider
about to take off
The exchange rate really worked
in our favor and we splurged by taking individual glider flights over
Plettenberg Bay and Robbeberg. It was amazing to see the town's burgeoning
growth from the air, and especially to see the seals off the point of
Robbeberg and the large school of dolphin playing in the waves off the
beaches just south of Keurbooms. The light was stunning and I ran 8 rolls
of film through my trusty Nikons
We did a fair amount of sight
seeing around Knysna, taking in a great lunch at the Waterfront and popped
into see Andre Fechter at Buffels Baai. Much time was spent at the
roadside shopping for African curios to take home to friends. It was also
really great to see old friend Stef and Pascal LeRoux and to meet their
friends Neil Stephenson (world Ranked surf-ski competitor and great white
shark attack survivor) and his girlfriend Lyle. What really great people.
From Plett we drove via the
splendid Nature's Valley, magnificent Storms River Bridge where we topped
up with world-class Biltong, and took a detour to St Francis bay where I
held up the trip by photographing the beautiful thatched homes that Kim
and I would like to build for ourselves someday.
Pasqui Lyle and Neil
Island at Plett from the glider
thatch homes at St Francis
coming in to land
Francis Bay, Cape
Next stop was Paul and Alison and
the boys in East London. Alison has a 3rd son on the way – he
is going to be named Daniel (just what the world needs is another Danny
Steyn!), and if he turns out to be anything like Jason or Morgan, they are
going to end up with the three most handsome boys in East London. Jason,
in particular, is a really good-looking boy, while Morgan is a real thug
who just couldn’t wait to watch Robby Nash’s windsurfing video RIP
with his uncle Danny! Paul and Alison are living an idyllic life with
their ever-increasing domestic staff, which now tops out at a staggering
eight and growing!!!
Despite our best attempts over
the years, Paul and I have never managed to go windsurfing together in
East London. He swears there is regular wind but I have never seen it,
clearly recalling the 1992 South African windsurfing champs when we spent
8 days on Nahoon Beach waiting for the wind to blow. Alas this trip was
the same, although Paul did get the opportunity to demonstrate his
admirable and newly acquired kitesurfing skills. Someday Paul!
truly with Jason and Morgan
From East London we traveled
through bustling Transkei towns of Butterworth, Umtata, Qumbe, and Mt
Frere. From there it was all the way along the Natal coast from Port
Shepstone to Durban. The Transkei roads were in surprisingly good
condition and pretty empty. In Durban we spent 2 days with gracious hosts
Jim and Kwezi Redman. I took the girls to se my old homes at Cycad Park
and Highgate Place, and impressed them no end with my alma mater, the
impressive Howard College overlooking the city. That night we had a braai
and got to see Jimmy and Mandy and their great kids Jade, Ryan and Brad
and a friend who spent the night having fun with the election posters out
on the street!
From Durban we motored up the
North coast via the border post at Golela to Swaziland - for the girls
getting foreign countries stamped in their passports is a major highlight.
We drove straight up to Mlilwane game Sanctuary where we met Terry and Liz
and spent the first night in their beautiful rambling thatch home at the
Rest Camp. Terry took us for a late evening climb up the side of the
Nyonyane hill to see the historic cave and Bushmen paintings. It was
pretty exciting for me, as I had last seen the cave when I was about 7
years old when Howard Kirk was making the film "Jezebel".
Unfortunately the paintings have faded over the years and were tough to
see in the fading light. For Kristina, who is studying anthropology, it
was a pretty big deal.
That night we spent our New Years
Eve with Anne, Robin Kate and Rowena dancing the night away at a huge
party at Malendelas. Unfortunately Kim was not feeling too good so we
ended up leaving early, before the arrival of the Swazi Fire Brigade who
were the hit of the show when they proceeded to spray the dance floor with
tons of foam. How surreal – a New Years Eve "foam party" in
Swaziland, Africa - almost as good as Ibiza!
Years Eve Celebrations
grandmothers old house
The following day after a day of
great game viewing Terry treated us to a night in Reilly's Rock Hilltop
Lodge, my grandmother’s old colonial house that has been beautifully
renovated and extended. Terry has done a magnificent job on the home,
which has stunning views over the Pumalanga plains. Petros, the head game
ranger, has moved down to the lower house, and his old house has been
incorporated into the luxury accommodation, and this is where the girls
spent the night. After a sumptuous 3-course dinner, we slept the night in
absolute luxury with the soothing sounds of rain drumming on the old
corrugated iron roof.
In my attempt to get some
wildlife photography done with the benefit of the early morning sweet
light, we headed out in the dark early the next morning only to find the
roads had been turned pretty slick by the rain. Ever undaunted I insisted
on crossing to the other side of the Usuthu river, only to get the
microbus well and truly stuck in the mud, much to the amusement of Kim and
Ashley. Terry got to hear about it on the radio after we walked back to
the rest camp to summon help from the game guards, and found it difficult
to stop chuckling about it. Ah that famous Reilly humor!
years Impala young
The next day provide the
highlight of the trip for me personally. On the way down to the Mkhaya
park, Terry took us for a sneak side excursion to the Hlane game reserve,
where we got to see a pride of lion, leopard and two cheetah in the space
of an hour. Despite my many years visiting Swaziland, I had never seen the
big cats, so it was pretty special to me. I will never forget the
low-pitched throaty growl of the male - it made the earth move and the
hair stand up on my neck!
Later, after having to walk
across the railway bridge at Phuza Moya to get to Mkhaya (the river was in
flood), Terry took the girls for a game walk and a very close encounter
with a rhino mom and her calf. You should have heard how nervous Kim was
to see her daughters less than ten feet from these impressive animals.
What I especially love about the photo is the game ranger holding out his
hand to stop a two ton rhino - it's like standing on the I95
and holding your hand out to stop a Mack truck! A
couple of minutes later we had a similar encounter in the LandRover with a
herd of elephant and their young calf. And moments later we see a lone
buffalo bull – we had seen and been really close to the “Big 5” in
just a matter of hours. It was a pretty memorable day.
in great shape
generations in one shot
white rhino calf
At Hlane we got to see Mickey and
his beautiful pregnant wife Kerrie, and had dinner with the entire Reilly
family (minus Kate - sorry we missed you) under the giant sausage tree.
After a quick game drive in the morning which got us close to a black
rhino male and the herd of elephant again, we set off on our trek back
We knew it was going to be rough
but we had to cover the 1500 miles back to Cape Town in just over a
day. We stopped for the night in East London at my brother’s place and
headed off early the next morning. We did enjoy one highlight when we were
forced to a stop at just shy of the Natures valley Tool Plaza. The road
had been besieged with a troop of baboons who proceeded to climb on the
vehicles and entertain the stopped cars. We got into Cape Town late and
checked into a hotel - our first the entire trip.
stop the traffic
We spent our last day in Africa
visiting Cape Town, first with Willem and Heinrich, who took us to see
Nettie, Erina, as well as Joan and Karen Greef and for a drive through the
Stellenbosch vineyards, and to see the prestigious Gymnasium where Johann
and Heinrich go to school. That afternoon we drove through Cape Town to
see the famous beaches of Llandudno, Hout Bay, and Clifton.
And then, way too quickly, the
trip was over – Kim and the girls flew out of South Africa that night
and I headed back to Durban for 7 days of business.
In closing, yes, you were all
right on the money – we did try to pack too much into the 10 day trip
– we ended up driving from Cape Town to Swaziland and back – almost
6500 kms in 10 days! But the kids needed to meet their extended family.
Kristina and Ashley had a great time, but complained of the early morning
starts that were needed to roll off the miles. Spending 10 days in a car
is also pretty trying at times and there were times we wished we could
have had our own space!!!!
For me the entire trip was a real
treat. It was great to show the girls my homeland, and explain just why it
is that I am so weird! Thanks to all of you who made our trip so special.